Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I need a vacation to recover from my vacation…

Has anyone else noticed that when you return home from a holiday, regardless of where you went and what you did, you get up the next morning to suitcases full of dirty laundry and an empty refrigerator?

We got home Sunday night from 16 days of driving, looking, seeing, photographing, and then driving some more. We dragged in a multitude of suitcases, bags, bundles, and packets plus a small table and a large plant. After depositing them randomly in the dining room and wolfing down a Mr. Delivery order, we fell into an exhausted sleep…blessedly in our own bed, for a refreshing change…and rose to the raucous racket of the alarm clock at barely six. Monday morning and Dear Hubby has to hie himself off to work.

As I closed the garage door after his departure, I fatuously said to myself “Ah, poor thing…he has to go back to the office while I have the day all to myself…Felicia is on holiday, no workmen scheduled…I can read, compute, watch TV or DVDs…” Smugly, I sauntered back into the house and made the mistake of stepping into the dining room…

It was nothing short of carnage, my dining room. The table was covered with packets and bits and bobs of things and surrounded by half-opened suitcases and bags, their fetid contents spilling untidily out onto the floor like so much offal. Even the kitchen counter was inaccessible, every available inch littered with the disgorged contents of shopping bags, tote bags, and miscellaneous containers. Discarded bits of bubble wrap, newspaper shreds and wads of packing paper littered the floor, mute testimony to my haste to reveal the glory of my prized Ardmore pot…purchased direct at the Ardmore pottery…to see if it really would look as great as I had imagined it would standing on the hand-carved three-legged table DH had negotiated for me in St. Lucia (it did).

But the room was a disaster…my beautiful polished pine furniture was buried under a blanket of discards mixed with as-yet-unrecovered treasures, the Oriental rug was nothing but an occasional glimpse of colour beneath the shifting dunes of discarded packing materials, dirty shirts and scattered shoes; nothing of the kitchen counters were visible beneath their burden, the refrigerator and cupboards were bare…there was nothing to eat, nothing to drink, and virtually nothing to wear…and DH was off at work, sitting in an air conditioned office, with nothing to do but play with his computer! There would be no lollygagging for me this day!

Laundry was the first order of business, five loads of grubby, sweat-stained garments that had been stuffed into suitcases for the better part of two weeks. Yah, we’d found a laundry partway through the trip and had things washed, but we had since worn them again and…well…let’s just say there is a reason that laundry hampers do not have tight-fitting lids… The doggies were filthy, their hair overgrown and sticking out wildly in all directions, their silky white coats grey with dirt. Obviously somebody had found themselves a nice patch of sand or dirt and had had a joyful time rolling in it…repeatedly! When I called the groomers, however, I learned that they were booked solid through the week…and they were closing on Thursday and would remain closed until January 3! Fortunately, a little whining and pleading (and the fact that we’ve been loyal customers for nearly two years) got me an appointment, but no pick-up and delivery…I had to do that myself.

I had to make a plan…there was just too much to do, too little time to do it, and the maid is on holiday in the Transkei. There was a mountain of laundry, two dirty doggies, and entire ML-load of purchases to unpack and put in their places, empty refrigerator and cupboards to fill…who was kidding whom about reading, computing and TV watching?

I did manage to catch up on the email and to get a blogspace going on my old site so I could point readers to the new one, but from the time the stores flung open their doors, my trusty laptop was destined to languish, abandoned and alone on the unmade bed, until I could rejoin it in the dark hours. I had been on holiday for two weeks and now it was time to pay the piper.

Bertha…which we were now calling “Dirty Bertie” due to the unimaginable coating of dust and the crust of kamikaze bugs she had collected on our many off-road adventures…and I rolled out the driveway with the two wriggling yapping doggies on board. Nashie loves to go “bye-bye” and apparently has communicated his joy to Candy for she no longer cringes at the prospect of a ride in the car. Nashie, however, is no fool. Halfway to the groomers he figured out where we were going (maybe I should try another route next time?) and began to moan pitifully. Candy, oblivious as ever, continued bounding happily from the centre console to the window and back, making occasional forbidden forays into my lap. She leapt joyfully out of the car when I opened the door and strained mightily at her leash while poor Nash just stood on the seat and looked at me with mournful, reproachful eyes. I could read his little doggie mind… “abandoned for two weeks and the first thing she does is take me to the torture place to be sudsed and drowned and my butt shaved and my glands squeezed…she really does hate me!”

Doggies safely entrusted to the groomers, Dirty Bertie and I rolled majestically (even disgracefully dirty, Bertha has a grand aura of stateliness to her) towards the Pick ‘n’ Pay…the cupboard really was bare!...only to find ourselves surrounded and immobilized by a slavering horde of other cars. Where did all these people come from? And why couldn’t I get just one kilometre from the groomer to the market without being embroiled in a bad imitation of commute traffic? It wasn’t even noon! At first I thought it was the Christmas shopping rush…I was passing Bayside, after all, and the parking lot was full. But as the traffic inexorably crept forward, the true source of the problem was revealed: a timid driver in a royal blue Toyota was afraid to stick his neck out and enter the traffic circle at one of the Bayside parking lot exits and the exiting shoppers were rolling through unchecked. Car after car crept out from behind Blue Toyota Man and entered the second lane of the circle while the Toyota stayed rooted to the spot, effectively choking traffic for nearly a kilometre back. I slowly rolled Bertha’s imposing bulk up until she filled the Toyota’s rear view mirror and at the next opening in the stream of cars leaving Bayside, I gave Blue Toyota Man a blast of Bertha’s hooter. The third time I “alerted” him to an acceptable opening in the traffic stream, Blue Toyota Man got the hint and bolted out into the traffic circle like a scared rabbit, a big grey Mercedes wolf on its tail. He was still running when I veered off his trail and wheeled Bertha into the Pick ‘n’ Pay parking lot.

Not being entirely stupid…and having long ago learned the value of doing last minute Christmas shopping at the very moment the store opens (and exiting within an hour)…I expected to find the Pick ‘n’ Pay centre a bit less hectic than Bayside. There are few browse-worthy shops in the centre, its tenants being more the kind of shops that you visit with a purpose…shoe repair, liquor store, security shop, pharmacy…that sort of thing. But I underestimated the zeal of the shopping-frenzied South African woman, for despite the store being relatively uncrowded, my fellow shoppers had not shifted out of retail combat mode.

South Africa enjoys the dubious distinction of having one of the worst traffic fatality records of any civilized nation on the planet…600 people have already died on the nation’s roads this month, in a country roughly twice the size of Texas…and if South Africans take the same mental attitude into the car with them that these people were displaying in the store, the only wonder is that the carnage is no greater than it is! I have long-since learned the folly of being in a hurry…the gain of a few seconds (which is all you ever get) simply is not worth the elevated blood pressure and souring of mood…but it seems I was much in the minority. Women of all shapes and sizes, ages and descriptions shoved their trolleys in front of them like rolling battering rams, whacking and sideswiping anyone or anything unfortunate enough to be between them and their objectives. Powered by caffeine and determination, they surged through the aisles, unapologetically crashing into other trolleys and even into each other without the barest hint of apology or acknowledgement. Queue-jumping at the deli and cold meat counters was rampant, arms snaking out into one’s field of vision to snatch a jug of milk or loaf of bread from in front of one’s face a regular thing. The thin veneer of courtesy and civilisation that separates us from the beasts had been scraped away to reveal the brute within. It was ugly.

And so I sojourned home to face the soothing mindlessness of unpacking the groceries, unpacking more bags, washing yet another load of clothes, my peace of mind gnawed at the edges with the sure knowledge that tomorrow I would have to venture out again…this time to Makro (a down-sized CostCo, for Americans---same stuff, same style, same volume, half the space to display it in). Dinner came and went and finally…finally!...I could rest my increasingly weary bones on my wonderful king-sized bed with all the fat pillows, fire up the laptop and blog.

I’ll bet you know what happened next…yup…fell dead asleep and had to write the blog this morning!

Happy Holidays to you, and the next entry will see me trying to upload photos of my holiday. Skip it if you don’t like travelogues punctuated by photos of yawning hippo, annoyed elephant, and basking crocodiles. We went a lot of places and saw a lot of stuff!